Storms Surrounding General Washington’s Bodyguard, Sergeant William Pace

Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge
Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge. Painting by John Ward Dunsmore, 1907. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

My 10th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015. The theme for week 10 is — Stormy Weather. This is the time of year that the northern hemisphere starts to see severe storms. (As if the blizzards in New England this winter haven’t been bad enough!) What ancestor endured a particularly severe storm? It could be something like a tornado or blizzard or it could be a “storm” of bad things.

My 10th ancestor is Revolutionary War hero William Pace (1747-1815) whom my husband’s extended Pace family thinks is his 5th great grandfather. The stormy reference? A stormy winter and a storm of genealogist controversy.

I have previously written about Pace being a member of the elite Commander-in-Chief’s Guard for General George Washington. William Pace served in the Continental Army from 23 January 1777, mustering out as a Sergeant on 3 November 1783.

Valley Forge

Valley Forge, located in Pennsylvania (about 20 miles north of Philadelphia), served as the 1777 – 1778 winter encampment for General George Washington’s Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Every American grade-schooler learns about the brutal winter conditions at Valley Forge, right up there with the famous crossing of the Delaware.

Images of bloody footprints in the snow, soldiers huddled around lonely campfires, and Washington on his knees, praying that his army might survive often come to mind when people hear the words “Valley Forge.” But truer images of the place would show General Washington using the time between December 1777 and June 1778 to train his men and to fight to maintain his position as the head of the Continental Army. – Source: Mount Vernon’s Ladies’ Association

The Valley Forge encampment lasted from December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778.

Undernourished and poorly clothed, living in crowded, damp quarters, the army was ravaged by sickness and disease. Typhoid, typhus, smallpox, dysentery, and pneumonia were among the numerous diseases that thrived in the camp during that winter. These diseases, along with malnutrition and exposure to the freezing temperatures and snow, contributed to the 2,500 soldiers that died by the end of the winter. – Source: Wikipedia

William Pace at Valley Forge

William Pace (then still a Private) is recorded on the March 1778 muster roll at Valley Forge. “According to March 1778 payroll, Pace was paid 2 pounds in English currency and 6 and 2/3 dollars in American.”

Per Wikipedia, Pace (if he didn’t arrive until March of 1978) would have served at Valley Forge after the encampment started receiving adequate supplies in February, due to Congress finally funding the Army’s supply lines. He would have also been there during the tenure of Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. Since Godfrey places Private Pace with the Guard at the Battle of Germantown in Pennsylvania on 4 October 1977, I am not sure why Pace wouldn’t have been at Valley Forge for the entire encampment period, showing up on all muster rolls. I will have to review military records more thoroughly.

Seriously? Another Valley Forge Ancestor?

At least one other ancestor of my husband served at Valley Forge — his 3rd cousin 7 times removed, Major General Nathanael Greene (then a Quartermaster General).

Storm of Controversy

There are a lot of family historians out there who claim that William Pace is descended from Richard Pace of Jamestown (1583-1627). Including a lot of public Ancestry Family Trees showing (apparently incorrect or not fully vetted) source documentation linking the two together.

No DNA Joint-Descent

Y Chromosome DNA
Human Y Chromosome DNA. Creative Commons licensed image from the ISOGG Wiki.

A couple of days ago, I stumbled across references in the Pace Society of America Facebook Group to a document by William and Martha Bellomy, discussing the military history of William Pace.

Although Bellomy’s website and .doc version of the family history publication are no longer live, I was able to retrieve them both via the Internet Archive. In this document, the Bellomies state on page 19:

We now know, there is NO evidence that supports the claim that William Pace, Sr., is a descendent of Richard Pace who saved Jamestown, Virginia, from the Indian massacre in the early 1620’s.

DNA studies indicate that our first Pace ancestor in America was John Pace of Middlesex County, VA. Bill Pace, my cousin, of Scottsboro, AL (see photo, p.123) was our proxy in the DNA study. My great-great grandmother, Susannah Pace, was a sister to his ancestor, William Pace, Jr. It was necessary to have a surname of Pace for this particular DNA study. The DNA indicated that Bill Pace was related to John Pace of Middlesex. Although we are not directly related to Richard Pace, George Pace of Canada, relates that there must be some relationship between Richard Pace and John Pace of Middlesex because in England their families lived near each other and their families have common names.

Since I am still a newbie on my husband’s Pace line, and have done no original Pace research of my own (other than visiting several Pace ancestor sites on vacation last fall), I immediately raised this question on the Pace Family Genealogy Facebook Group in hopes that some of the members who are involved in Pace DNA research could shed some light on this issue.

Professional genealogist Rebecca Christensen is the administrator of the Pace Family Genealogy Facebook Group, as well as the Pace Surname DNA Study. She responded to my question about 15 minutes later.

William Pace, of Washington’s Guard, is a John Pace of Middlesex Co., VA Pace. DNA does prove that John Pace of Middlesex and Richard Pace of Jamestown, VA are from two distinct families – two separate DNA haplogroups.

For many years, Paces tried to massage the records and explain away the reasons they thought John Pace of Middlesex could be a descendant of Richard Pace of Jamestown. When Family Tree DNA was created, the Pace family was one of the earliest projects on board with the goal of finding out whether the two men were related. It was pretty obvious when the results came back that they weren’t – and it has been confirmed time and time again. DNA testing was the best thing to happen for the Pace families – except for maybe those that want to claim both lines as their ancestry. Hope you can get the Pace cousin to test. It should tell you which Pace line your husband’s Pace family belongs to.

In my husband’s family, there is disagreement over this among the Pace cousins who have researched their genealogy. Two claim direct descent through both William Pace and Richard Pace of Jamestown: I talked to one about this at a Pace party last summer, and I have reviewed the public Ancestry Member Tree of the second Pace who shares this theory. The dissenting Pace, with whom I just chatted on Facebook, says they are only descended from Richard Pace.

I have no horse in this race. I’m still in the gathering-every-possible-lead-and-theory I find phase, and slowly trying to evaluate sources myself.

Our Next Steps

So…what now? Are we related to Revolutionary War hero William Pace? Or to Jamestown hero Richard Pace? Or possibly neither?!

Will my husband get to continue demanding gratitude from his friends every Presidents’ Day, for an ancestor who helped protect our future first president and ensure our liberty?

Time to get some Paces to spit!

I have ordered an autosomal DNA kit from AncestryDNA, to ask my husband’s Pace aunt to let me test her (his Pace mother is deceased), as well as a Y-DNA kit from Family Tree DNA to beg one of my husband’s male-line Pace cousins (since Hubby is a Pace through his mother) to let me test them. Then contribute both to the Pace DNA project. The Y-DNA test from a male Pace cousin should help us, via the Pace project, identify to which (really, if either) of these notable Paces we are related.

And I really need to start going after those primary source documents too.

Sources Used

Bellomy, W., & Bellomy, Martha. (2014, September 10). The Bellomy/Bellamy and Pace Families. Retrieved from

The Friends of Valley Forge Park. (n.d.). Private William Pace. Valley Forge Legacy: The Muster Roll Project. Retrieved March 10, 2015, from

Godfrey, C. E. (1904). The Commander-in-chief’s Guard, Revolutionary War. Washington, D. C.: Stevenson-Smith company. Retrieved from

Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. (n.d.). Valley Forge. George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Retrieved March 10, 2015, from

National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. (n.d.). Ancestor Search | Pace, William.DAR Genealogical Research System. Database. Retrieved from

Valley Forge. (2015, March 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13:30, March 10, 2015, from

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0 thoughts on “Storms Surrounding General Washington’s Bodyguard, Sergeant William Pace”

  1. D.E. jack Pace

    I believe there is enough evidence to link Wm. Pace to the guard. Also to link him to the John Pace of Middlesex line. Which means according to the Pace Society DNA program he is not recently related to Richard Pace (Surry County) of Paces Paines of Jamestowne.

    1. Colleen Greene

      Thanks for the comment! That’s what I’ve been hearing. I have a Y-DNA test kit for on of my husband’s male Pace cousins to take soon, so we look forward to finding out to which (if either) of these famous Pace’s they are related.

    2. Colleen Greene

      Hi. Yep, I’ve heard the same from the folks involved in that DNA project, despite generations of that claim being perpetuated. I had a male-line Pace cousin of my husband do the y-DNA test, and his results should be processed within a month. Then we’ll know from which of these two Pace lines my husband’s branch descends.

      1. Shirley Adkins meyers

        He was my mother great grandfather her mother name was Julie Ellen pace born in Jackson co buried in pace graveyard she was married Jessie potter he my great great grandfather

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